The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees met Monday afternoon and unanimously approved the purchase of a former retail space to create a new consolidated Lakeshore Campus in Holland.
After introductions were made by GRCC President Bill Pink, including introducing the owner of The Shops at Westshore: developer Gregory Erne, Board Chair David Koetje proceeded to move along with the Board’s agenda.
The Board transitioned swiftly into one of two major topics to be discussed at the meeting, with Koetje prefacing Pink’s involvement in the upcoming Lakeshore Campus deal.
“It was maybe three months ago that Bill and his team invited the board into their thinking about a possible opportunity we had on the lakeshore,” Koetje said. “As we journeyed with Bill and his team over the last few months, the board is now ready to receive a presentation from Lisa on that.”
Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger began her presentation by emphasizing that pending the Board’s approval, President Pink and herself could move forward with the negotiation and purchase of the former JCPenney store that was apart of the Shops at Westshore. She continued by sharing details on the space, including its size of around 50,000 square-feet. Included in the resolution that was proposed to the Board was that the purchase price is not to exceed $2 million, and that once an agreement on the purchase is made, the school can move forward with renovations.
Freiburger ended her presentation by telling the Board that she would be happy to answer any questions that they might have. It was then that Board Secretary Cynthia Bristol wanted to comment on the presentation and the new proposed location.
“Some of the trustees were over there to see the site, and the questions we had were more than adequately answered,” she said. “The space was absolutely perfect for what we would want to do.”
The resolution was approved as the Board voted unanimously to move forward with the negotiations to make the purchase.
“We just made a pretty bold statement to our friends in Ottawa County that we are committed to a long term partnership,” Koetje said after the vote. “We solidified this college’s commitment to propel thousands of students with Ottawa County addresses down a pathway that will lead to a fulfillment of their dreams and their aspirations.”
Koetje continued by reflecting on the Board’s journey toward a move like this that could impact the school and its students in a positive way.
“As a board, we stopped and looked back and asked ourselves the question: what has our legacy been over the last couple of years?” Koetje said, then paused. “A few years back we weren’t able to answer that question, but we hired a president. As we look back over a two year period this may very well be our answer to that question.”
Of course, Koetje was referencing Pink, who has been working closely with the Board and with the developer of The Shops at Westshore to move forward with the deal. When asked how long ago he became confident that the consolidation of the Lakeshore Campus was a real possibility, Pink spoke on his timeline over the last several months.
“About 6-7 months ago is when we took a team from GRCC out to the site,” Pink told The Collegiate. “Then over the summer is when we took some members of the Board out to see it, and when all of the right people had a positive reaction to it, that’s when we started working with the developer.”
Pink continued to summarize how early discussions with the developer unfolded.
“It become a discussion of whether we wanted to own the site or lease the site,” he said. “If it’s going to be a project where we are already going to put about $10 million of renovations into it, we want to own it.”
As Freiburger mentioned in her presentation, the renovations will not be underway until after the agreement on the purchase price has been made. After renovations are concluded, administrators are anticipating a fall 2021 opening for the new consolidated Lakeshore Campus.